Niall McGinn says Aberdeen need to pair clean sheets with their rediscovered goalscoring ability to start winning consistently once more.
In their first five Premiership fixtures after the winter break, the Dons were heavily criticised for failing to score, but only conceded in two of those outings.
Since then, they have found the scoring formula once more, netting nine times in four fixtures – in the league with a 3-1 win at Hamilton, 2-1 Pittodrie defeats to Celtic and Ross County, as well as a 4-3 Scottish Cup fifth-round replay win at Kilmarnock last Wednesday.
However, it is now the goals against column which is causing problems, with now-fourth-placed Aberdeen losing their last four league games at Pittodrie.
Saturday’s defeat to County was particularly frustrating for the 10-man Reds, with Billy Mckay scoring a double to cancel out Curtis Main’s opener.
McGinn said: “As a group of players, we were feeling confident and good after the midweek game (at Killie).
“Even after the previous couple of performances we were feeling very, very good.
“We just need to get back to keeping clean sheets.
“ When we’re doing that we know we can create chances.
“The downfall of late has been not keeping clean sheets.
“We have shown a goal threat with scoring a few, but we just need to be more of a collective unit, don’t concede and then try to win games.
“We got off to a good start, getting the goal and going ahead, but just couldn’t see that through to half-time.”
With Dean Campbell shown a second yellow in the 32nd minute for getting in the way of an Iain Vigurs’ free-kick, Aberdeen faced an uphill battle to maintain their lead and take all three points against the Staggies.
The visitors were level by the break when Mckay sent a free header past Joe Lewis, before McGinn’s fellow northern Irishman got in behind the Dons’ defence to win it on 88 minutes.
Boss Derek McInnes pointed to the red card and fatigue from the Celtic game on Sunday and then Kilmarnock as an explanation for the Reds’ lack of resilience, but McGinn didn’t feel the home side were under the cosh, all things considered.
He instead pointed to errors and said: “Myself, I felt good in the game. It was obviously really windy and there wasn’t much football played, but I think – no disrespect – but if we were maybe playing against a possession-based team like Celtic or Rangers, they’d be bombarding our goal with crosses and shots, but it didn’t feel like we were getting troubled too much.
“We maybe made a couple of mistakes at the wrong times and they’ve scored two good goals, but it didn’t feel like they were cutting us open.
“We had a few half chances, but it just wasn’t meant to be our day on Saturday.
“We’ve got to dust ourselves down, rest and recover now, as we’ve got a full week’s work ahead of us.”
Aberdeen started Saturday in the Premiership’s third sport by virtue of their superior goal difference over Motherwell, but they’ve dropped a point behind the Steelmen after their 0-0 draw with Hamilton.
McGinn admits the squad is frustrated they’ve not capitalised on their chances to pull away in third as attentions turn to the Scottish Cup again this weekend.
McInnes’ men travel to Paisley for a quarter-final clash with St Mirren – a game which kicks off at 7.20pm. When they return home, winger McGinn wants Pittodrie to be a fortress for Aberdeen like it has been at earlier stages of his Reds career, and said: “It’s been frustrating for everyone. We’re just happy we’re still in the cup.
“We’ve always been a good side at home and teams have struggled to come here and go away with the points. We definitely need to get back to winning ways sooner rather than later in the league.
“The games are running out.
“There’s been chances there for us to open up a gap or close the gap on Motherwell but we didn’t.
“We’re not going to get too many more opportunities to get back into third and open the gap on the rest. But we’ll put the league to one side for the moment and 100% concentration goes into Saturday now.
“Off the back of a disappointing result, we want to get a very positive result.”